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what I'm reading now

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jan : feb : mar
apr : may : jun
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jan : feb : mar
apr : may : jun
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may : jun : jul
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Friday, May 31, 2002
reading run around, again...

Can't quite make myself start reading the Mrs. Frank Leslie book again. I read almost half of October suite last night. It's about a black woman teacher living in Kansas/Missouri in the 1950s just before Brown vs. the Board of Education. She gets involved with a married man, gets pregnant, moves back home to Ohio, gives her son to her sister to adopt, and returns to Kansas to teach. That's about where I am now.

Thursday, May 30, 2002
purple passage

Started reading Purple passage; the life of Mrs. Frank Leslie two nights ago. It's by Madeline B. Stern who edited a Louisa May Alcott book. Mrs. Leslie was a famous woman publisher born in 1836 in New Orleans. I happened across the book while I browsed the shelf where it lives. I've never heard of her, but apparently she was quite scandalous, and that's what attracts me to a biography. The writing is average, but I think it was published in 1953, the year my mother was born. So there, I do read OLD books.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002
she reads a lot

I hoped to post on Saturday but my access to the internet was circumvented. Well, I was pissed about it, you see because I've been reading quite a bit lately. Where to begin? I'm chucking Juniper burning tree. I've read four or five other books since first starting it, and my attention cannot be forced back to it. Plus, it's overdue at the library and I cannot renew it.
I did read A tree accurst: stories of Frankie Silver. It was quite illuminating. Very scholarly. A nice investigation of primary source materials along with different versions of the story. Although I grew up knowing the story it wasn't until I read Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad of Frankie Silver that I was reacquainted with the characters and events. Frankie Silver was the first woman hanged in North Carolina in 1833. She chopped up her husband and burned as much of his remains as possible. Thrilling tales from the NC backcountry, I know, and I'm somehow, though quite distantly, related to her. Okay, I looked through all my genealogy stuff and it turns out that Frankie's sister-in-law was my 3rd great aunt. Very distantly related, you see?

Speaking of chucking, I also decided to go no further in Prozac Nation. I believe I read about the first ten pages of the book and it was just so boring and yucky. Poor little rich girl, boo-hoo. I'd rather read about someone who has real problems.

My fascination with women in adventurous professions led me to read Special agent: my life on the front lines as a woman in the FBI, although I'm wondering what her life was like as a MAN on the front lines of the FBI. I know, I'm being smart. Must stop that. It's just that the title is so.... well... stupid, so ummmmmm, obvious? While it was somewhat interesting, and her life was challenging and she did work in an adventurous field, I didn't particularly gain much from reading it. Candice DeLong almost gladly endured sexual harassment and, well I just wasn't convinced that she would be a good role model for me, personally. However, she did work the Kaczynski case and actually "apprehended" him at his cabin in Montana. She wrote about the whole library & questioned document aspect of the case, and even said that the librarian nearest his town was his only friend.
Then there was more memoir.

I read Waiting: true confessions of a waitress, which was okay. Parts were interesting. I feel as though I know more about why waitstaff deign to serve tables for one. But ultimately, it left me hungry. Debra Ginsberg's website looks pretty neat though.

Yesterday I began Peter Jenkins new book Looking for Alaska. I readily admit that I'm a freak for Alaska. I lived there a year and ever since I've left I can't get enough of it. While I've always intended to return for good, I doubt that will happen until I retire unless there is divine intervention of some sort. So after reading it I fell into this nasty melancholy which I still haven't shaken. It will likely haunt me for days, weeks possibly. Despite the fact that Jenkins never visits or mentions my beloved Sitka (which really isn't Alaska, you know?), it was almost like being "home" again. Blah, blah, sentimentalism kicks into high gear. Though it was a lengthy book, it was quite good. I did think that he, quite obviously and naturally, focused a bit too much on the MALE experience of Alaska. Who knew? I'm still looking for the great Alaskan woman memoir.

I ripped through Talking to Addison, one of those New Brit Lit things. It was comedic and actually quite appropriate for reading on a plane or at the beach, and while I thought it was good, I kept picturing the main character as Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones (which I did not read because I found the cataloging of cigarettes coupled with pounds lost and gained to be quite annoying, neurotic, and ultimately distracting from the narrative). I suppose it's because the dialogue is so similar, as well as the supporting characters. So quite fun and cheerio and all that, but ultimately it was not my cup of tea. But, I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it, as it is quite the comedy of errors and may be just what you need for a chuckle or two. I'm not sure what I'll read next. However, the possibilities are endless. What to read? that IS the question.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

Although I'd really rather not be sick, it has afforded me a bit more leisure time to read. Finished Enigma, which was pretty good although my eyes crossed a few times when equations and such would pop up in the text. Not my favorite book, but a interesting topic during wartime, although I really don't like WW II stuff.

Next was Death of a Princess. Yes, I know, I'm really quite trashy at times in my reading selections. I suppose it is because I cut my teeth on the National Enquirer, Star, and Globe as a child. In fact I have a scrapbook that contains embarrassing articles I clipped from their pages regarding Michael Landon's divorce settlement, etc. Reading about Diana's death was just one of those impulses that I felt I should follow. The book was so-so, and didn't really tell me much more than I'd already absorbed via the media regarding conspiracy theories. It really doesn't dispel those very well, and quite frankly insinuates that the British Embassy was behind the whole plot. It also appears as though the major conspiracy site no longer exists. Oh well. One must indulge oneself in crapola every now and then. Personally, I lean toward believing conspiracy theories. It's because I have such scorn for those in power and understand that there are no limits to what they will do in the name of the crown, flag, or in Christ or Allah's names, or whatever to justify the most trivial of "threats."

Then I read About a boy, which was really quite good. I liked it better than High Fidelity, and probably the other Nick Hornby novel that I read last month, though I can't recall its title right now. I think what made it really great is that I pictured Hugh Grant as the character throughout the whole novel (for really obvious reasons, right?), and that was certainly appealing, although I don't usually find men who are 11 years older than me attractive at all, there's just something about Hugh.
Then I started reading Prozac nation, again. I really wonder if I can make it thorough that book at all. It's so self-absorbed and pathetic. Poor little daughter of privilege is depressed. Doesn't make for a very good story, and her writing sort of puts me off as well. I've gotten to the part where she described taking too many antihistamines at summer camp, her first "overdose" of sorts which allows her the peace of sleeping for several days. Needless to say the book languishes on my night table It's sat there a day or two, possibly three, and I've already finished Honky and am now reading Hating whitey.

Dalton Conley's memoir, Honky that is, should you be confused, of growing up as the only white kid in NY's ghetto was good, and short as well. Easy to read. Filled with stories of tough times and class and racial angst. He's a prof. at NYU, now, so I guess it made him better for it. Well, he readily admits to his white privilege, so there's never a question about that.

I picked up Hating Whitey on a lark. I was interested in reading Horowitz's previous book, Radical Son, just to try and understand why how the worm turns (or a better illusion, how one can be sucked into the dark side........Luke, I am your father.....), but didn't get around to reading it. What's so scary about him is that he fully embraces whatever side he's championing, completely with blinders on. It's like he can't ever reach middle ground and see both positive and negative things about his political affiliation. His writings are quite compelling to say the least, and it really give me insight into what the other side is thinking. Read more here.

Sunday, May 12, 2002
a good read

I was pleased with Hollow ground. The characters and plot are well-developed and complex. There are multiple stories going on which each character and they're so wonderfully drawn and symbiotic that the book was a true pleasure to read. I can't wait to read his next book. But, I don't know the best way to recommend it to anyone, other than saying that his style of writing was engaging, Marion really knew his characters, and was able to share them quite brilliantly with the reader. There are one or two things that I'm still curious about, loose ends that weren't tied up, so I'm hoping that there's a "sequel." It really seems as though the book ends way too soon. There's not much resolution in the end and I grew quite attached to the characters and really wanted to learn the outcome of their personal trials. A bit of coal mining and scabs and such, but it didn't seem particularly Tennessean or Appalachian for that matter. Marion didn't wrap up things all neat and tidy, which I think is a good strategy to keep you thinking about the characters, though it's quite frustrating as well. It's one of the best books I've read this year, and it's not even half-over yet. Hopefully there will be more to come.

Still pausing on Juniper tree burning. Just started Robert Harris's Enigma. Although I didn't see the movie, I do admire Kate Winslet and will eventually see the movie. One of my general rules of reading is to read the book prior to seeing the movie once it is released on DVD. It's just the way I am, have always been that way, for that matter. I know I have my "rules for reading"--like one need's something like that when it comes to reading, but honestly there are so many promising books out there that turn into sludge that you simply cannot continue reading--in html form somewhere, but I can't seem to find them now. I have a clear idea of what they are, but don't want to list them at this moment.

Thursday, May 09, 2002
juniper on hold

Sigh....I hate it when I have to interrupt my reading. And, I haven't been in Juniper tree burning for a few days now. I decided that I must read Hollow ground, since its a few days overdue at this point, and then pick up in Juniper where I left off. Finished about a chapter or two last night before bed. It takes place in Appalachia, quite possibly Tennessee, though I'm still not terribly clear on that. Here's a blurb from the Algonquin page (there's really very little information out about the book or its author):

"In the tradition of Richard Russo, debut novelist Stephen Marion gives us not only the story of a father and son getting to know each other for the first time, but also that of a small town whose mining industry has literally hollowed out the ground beneath their feet."

I feel like a true heel. Stephen Marion, the author was here last month and I didn't get over to see him. Of course that is because I work two jobs and he was at the ETSU Celebration of Books, which was on Saturday during the time that I was at my second job. Oh, but he will be at ALA, goody.
Really as far as I'm concerned it's an essential read mainly because its published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, my favorite press. Is it silly to be in love with a press? Sigh.... my heart goes pitter-pat and those obnoxious cupids appear above my head whenever I'm at the Algonquin booth at ALA. And the great thing about visiting their booth at ALA is that on the last day of the conference the reps sell the books they brought for 50% off the cover price just so they don't have to lug them back from whence they came. Sometimes life is somewhat fair. But the other thing that I really like about Algonquin is that they know how to do an author tour. Marion stopped at the North Carolina Literary Festival, Square Books of Oxford, MS, Malaprop's in Asheville, NC., and he'll be at ALA. Those weren't the only places he toured, but those are some of the best as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps he has a really great agent as well?

Honestly my reading has suffered because I've had bookshelves built along one of my walls in the living room. I've been trying to organize them in some fashion. It's quite trying. I've grouped them by subject, for now. I'm considering actually arranging them by Dewey. I think that might totally drive me bonkers, but would really solve the problem so well.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

No reading for some time now, unfortunately. Well, that is wrong. I am in beginnings of Juniper Tree Burning a fictional account of a hippie child's youth. It's not a very happy book, rather dark in places. The paperback cover looks much more judgeable, if you're the type to do that sort of thing, because I certainly am. And, I've got the hardback from the library. S & S provides a reading guide for the book as well. There are several discussion questions that you may peruse, if you are so inclined.

What I haven't written about though, is what I haven't read. There were 2 books that I began but then tossed aside rather quickly. Now, if I can just recall their titles...isn't THAT indicative that they weren't the slightest bit Memorable either? One was about this retired naval officer who set out with his wife and another man to sail around the world. It was likened to Melville, one of those epic man against nature things, I'll come up with the title someday. The inside of the book jacket, and I can never recall what that thing is really called, touted the book as some great literary masterpiece. Ummm, I didn't get that. I imagine that folks who write those blurbs must make much ado abut nothing. It was very flat. Very sparse. No meat in the text, very cardboard characterizations. Had to set it adrift.

Then I tried Snow mountain passage, because cannibalism appeals to me in a very unsettling way, and I'm a nut for western pioneer-type stories. It's a fictionalized account of the Donner Party, looked very promising, but I suppose last week I was just in some kind of mood because I immediately decided that I could not go on with either of these books. Read the NYT review of snp and decide for yourself. At times I'm very impatient with authors and if they don't hook me immediately, then so long, goodbye to that book. Too many book, so little time. Although my summer is already jam-packed with writing commitments, plus my day job and my weekend job, I may not do as much reading as I'd like, but no doubt I will have book in hand and every bad that I carry everywhere I may go!